Packing the (Street) Press for Progress

8 March 2018 Women's Subscription Enterprise

Packing the (Street) Press for Progress

Maureen, like many of the women who work for the Women's Subscription Enterprise, has faced hardships that are unimaginable to most people. But through work she found stability, purpose and self-worth.

The Women's Subscription enterprise gives homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged women a vital and accessible job opportunity, packing subscription copies of The Big Issue for send out.

Selling the magazine on the street as a Big Issue vendor is not a viable option for all women, especially those who have experienced domestic violence or are caring for children. So The Big Issue created a safe, flexible and supportive work environment that caters for their needs.

Maureen started working for the Women's Subscription Enterprise in 2011, a year after it launched.  

"I'd just come out of a woman's shelter. I had ongoing issues with homelessness that came about from a whole lot of circumstances I experienced," Maureen says.

"I secured housing with an agency called Common Ground and then a support worker helped me in getting a position at the Women's Subscription Enterprise in Adelaide."

Maureen is a Yangkuntjatjara woman who grew up in the small community of Oodnadatta in South Australia. She moved to Whyalla, a larger regional town, to give her children more opportunities.

Adjusting to life in Adelaide was difficult for Maureen. But she says her work has helped.

"I've had experiences with mental illness, homelessness, being a survivor of the stolen generation. I've had three lots of open heart surgery.

"I've had to experience a readjustment in my life; being away from family, being away from familiar surroundings.

"I last worked in 2006 for a government department and had a good wage, but then I lost my job and lost my family and lost my sense of self, and I had a lot of personal and spiritual issues to confront.

"Now, having that steady employment has allowed me to be grounded and be able to enhance my self-worth and reintegrate into the community."

Maureen still remembers the nerves from her first shift, "I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed and didn't know people. I was feeling a little bit frightened and I had difficulty interacting with other people."

But after seven years of working for the Women's Subscription Enterprise, she says her outlook on life has improved.

"I like the companionship and interaction, it's good for my spirit and my mental health, my wellbeing, meeting up with the other women there and working as a team," she says.

"I've got to know the people who've been on my shifts. We have conversations; I share some of my experiences and hopefully sharing helps somebody else. It's something that I look forward to going to. It's helped me a lot.

"The conversations are very important, mixed with humour; laughing is good medicine."

In many ways, the Women's Subscription Enterprise is more than a job, it's a support network that encourages and personal and professional growth.

"Goal setting not an initiative many places offer, and it made me feel valued to work on my goals. My goal is to remain working at the Women's Subscription Enterprise, and from there I can explore further goals," Maureen says.

"Last year I completed a barista course with a registered training organisation. I wanted to know more about how coffee is made, and I love a latte.

"Training extends our opportunities. And it enhances my curiosity. I jumped at the chance to go to the course."

Maureen says it's incredibly important for woman to have access to opportunities like the Women's Subscription Enterprise provide.

"What's important for me and I think for a lot of women is that we are valued. It's very important given what we've experienced," she says.

"I come from a family who've had their children taken away from them; the stolen generation. And a lot of things have happened.

"I think those similarities, those difficult experiences, run across a lot of us who are involved in the Women's Subscription Enterprise. So I think it's very important that we are valued, and we are valued there." 

Celebrate International Women's Day this year by subscribing to The Big Issue. Every subscription helps employ women like Maureen, who are working hard to improve their lives.

Subscribe to The Big Issue here.

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